The Urban Development Institute of Australia (NT) strongly supports enhanced housing affordability in the Northern Territory, recognising that making houses more affordable will help to attract workers and their families to the NT.
Recent NT Government initiatives to release more land for housing are welcomed by the industry. The more rapid releases of land across the Northern Territory are already showing positive results and as long as land releases keep pace with demand, the community can expect prices for this commodity to be consistent with movements in the Consumer Price Index, instead of rising rapidly due to a shortage of supply.
While land costs are a significant component of the costs of housing, building costs usually represent the major part of the total outlay. For this reason the development industry also needs to play its part by introducing cost-saving initiatives if home buyers are to achieve significant savings.
One of the key industry initiatives to reduce costs has been the delivery of at least some smaller blocks in most new developments. Although there has been some community resistance to smaller blocks, they are nevertheless proving to be very popular in the marketplace.
The popularity of smaller blocks is in part due to reduced land costs. But the real key to their popularity is the innovative housing designs the industry is now offering on smaller allotments. You can see a good example of this if you visit the new display homes at The Heights Durack. Amended setback allowances to enable builders to adopt clever designs which make better use of the front of blocks are just one change that is proving popular in the marketplace.
If you have visited display homes in previous Palmerston subdivisions to price the cost of house and land packages, you might be in for a pleasant surprise when you see what is now on offer in some subdivisions. The surprise will not only be in the bottom line cost, but in the quality and design features of the housing products on offer.
Another industry initiative that is turning heads is the use of modular housing components. During July I attended the launch of some new Defence Housing Australia modular homes which have been erected in the Palmerston suburb of Johnston. The houses look good and include some excellent design features for tropical living, so should prove to be popular in the marketplace.
But these houses were not built in the normal way for Darwin housing. They were put together in modular form in Perth and brought here by road transport. This has meant the on-ground construction times have been dramatically reduced. There is substantially less waste with this approach to house construction and houses can be erected during the wet season, when standard building methods are often slowed due to weather.
The savings which can be expected to be achieved through modular house construction will be very significant in the longer term if companies offering such products can be attracted to set up an operation locally. The main obstacle is the limited size of the market, but as our population continues to increase and our economy grows, the potential for achieving savings through local availability of modular homes will increase.
In another example of how the modular approach to house construction is being used to generate savings, local company Sitzler is importing modular components for the new student housing being developed at Casuarina. This innovative approach will enable components to be bolted together to form the shell of each student apartment within a few days, thereby saving significant time and cost.
The industry response to the challenge of achieving more affordable housing in Darwin is already yielding significant savings, but there is strong potential for achieving even greater savings through ongoing innovation in design as well as through making greater use of modular building methods.
The Urban Development Institute of Australia (NT) applauds the innovation being adopted by our local industry in seeking to enhance housing affordability. It is encouraging to see that sound long-term development planning, sustained release of land to meet projected demand, and industry innovation are now combining to deliver quality housing at more affordable prices in the Northern Territory.